How to Practice to Win a Magic The Gathering Tournament

July 10, 2009 | Posted by Dee

Gavin writes one of the best articles about Magic The Gathering strategy in 2009, Perfect Practice Makes Perfect.

He tells us to make our make playtesting sessions more serious to mimic the tournament environment.

One of the most common mistakes I see in playtesting is having the wrong mindset. To playtest to the best of your ability, you should still hold a mindset of seriousness and intensity. Now, this is not often the kind of behavior seen in playtesting. There are four or six people around a table, playing games at a lightning pace to maximize the amount of games they get in, goofing around, eating out of a big bowl of chips, with some sport on the television speakers in the background. How many items on that list are around in a tournament? Hopefully zero. So why are they there in playtesting?

He recommends playing tournaments on Magic Online as one of the best ways to practice for a real life tournament.

There’s a reason Magic Online breeds the world’s best, and playing pickup games against random people on Magic Workstation doesn’t. Magic Online isn’t anything like traditional testing. Instead of having a few people playing tons of games in an insular environment and trying to reach results as fast as possible, data is accumulated through tournaments. Now, this is beneficial for a number of reasons, but for this point think about what happens when you pay to play in a tournament with some amount of prize on the line.

Guess what? You care about winning. You have paid a cost to play instead of just playing yet another game with your friends, and you are given a motive to succeed (prizes) other than “let’s collect data.” This fact is huge.

If you want to test with real cards, mock tournaments are a great tool.

Playtesting in person with a group of people is still useful if done correctly of course, but a highly underused tool is the mock tournament. A mock tournament is a tournament with some arbitrary prize, that has proxies allowed for ease of playtesting and so that a higher number of people can play. Mock tournaments can be run in stores or even just at someone’s house if you have enough friends to come over. They can even be run over a program like Magic Workstation. Mock tournaments works on the same principle that Magic Online testing does: give people a reason to care about winning, and they will try to win. They’re especially useful for testing upcoming formats with cards that aren’t legal to play with in tournaments yet. Mock tournaments are one avenue a lot of people don’t try, but are very useful because they allow you to play in a realistic tournament setting.